Saturday, August 29, 2009

Belva Wilcox 1904 - 1997

Belva Wilcox was born on the 12th of October in 1904. She lived in Farmington, Utah in a comfortable home in southeast part of the town. One time she had a large sage tick fastened to the back of her neck, and when her father discovered it he poured a little turpentine on it and it fell out. Turpentine seemed to be a remedy for cuts, bruises, and everything else. Her brother Ray got into some trouble stealing and was sent to reform school until he was eighteen.

When they moved to Mesa, Arizona the family moved into two square tents, slept in one, and cooked in the other. Her father Thomas, and her brother Ferris, planted trees, grapevines, and dug a well. They had few neighbors and beyond them stretched cactus, grease wood and mesquite. Here she found the poisonous scorpions, snakes, and many rabbits.

The Indians from Lehi would come on rabbit hunts starting in a wide circle and closing in to a small ring where they would kill the stalked rabbits for food. Belva was frightened by them and after watching and listening to their yells would crawl under her bed and stay for a long time.

She drove a buggy to school, pulled by Ginger or Cuba, one of two family horses. Belva made her own lunch which she took to school each day. Sundays they would drive the buggy to church with everyone clean and washed the night before in washtubs. Her shoes were a high-top button or lace type which she wore with black hose and underwear made from flour sacks.

Years after her mother’s death, her father married Mrs. Clarinda Phelps in the Salt Lake Temple in 1912. At first the children wanted nothing to do with their new mother. One time Clarinda’s nieces told Belva that Clarinda could tell great stories, after that the children asked her to tell some stories. She did. Having been a schoolteacher and a Sunday school teacher, Belva found her new mother had many beautiful and exciting stories to tell including many Book of Mormon stories. Belva recalls, “Mama” was such a kind, lovely woman that she soon became the children’s friend. They enjoyed talking to her and she always had time to listen to their problems. Surely, we were blessed to have someone to encourage us in our church work and higher education. Belva never heard her say a swear word or anything unkind about another person. She was a real lady.

Belva was baptized by her father in the irrigation ditch in front of her home where the head gate that let the water into the ditch had made a pool deep enough to immerse her. Here the polliwogs gathered and the children played with them. Eventually the family had a bigger home, dairy cows, a creamer, shade and fruit trees, citrus trees and grapes and many chickens that furnished eggs and meat. They also had beehives.

Belva remembered a funny story, “Mama made Hazel and I some pretty dresses – one I remember was a blue chambray with hand embroidery on it. She taught me to crochet, and once I was making a dust cap in the loose knot stitch, and was herding the dairy cows in a corner of the field while Father and Ferris, my brother, were milking. One cow broke loose and was heading away from the group, so I put my blue cap down while I chased the cow back. The young calf saw it and swallowed it down. My yelling brought papa, and he reached his arm way down the calf’s neck and brought it out. Needless to say, it was all stained with alfalfa.”

“About this time my sister Hazel was very seriously burned in a gasoline explosion in our cellar. We had gone to bed, and I remembered I had not fed my cat. Hazel— was always doing things for me— she said, ‘I will go get the milk.’ So she went down into the basement with a candle where father had a gasoline tank full of gas that he used in the engine. It exploded, and Hazel caught on fire. Mother and Father immediately smothered the flames and Father scooped the gasoline can into the air and it exploded. For days and days Mother would rub ointment on places where Hazel was burned, especially on her face. After a long time these scars mostly disappeared. But it was such a serious burn, she was very sick and really in pain. In 1915 they moved several miles south to a new farm with almonds.”

They lived next to a canal and in spite of not being able to swim they floated down the canal on pillowcases filled with air. In 1917 the heat got to Papa and he sold out and moved 15 miles north of Prescott. In 1919 they moved back to Chino Valley. Belva graduated from Mesa High in 1923. Belva recalls, “When I returned to Chino in the summer I met my future husband George Jones. George and I fell in love after I went to Tempe College and we wrote to each other.” Belva made her own wedding dress. Her father was opposed to the marriage because George was not a member of the church. They were in love so they were determined and married in Prescott on February 4, 1924. Belva immediately became pregnant with Marjorie Yvonne. Later, Norma was born on February 10, 1930 in Prescott, Arizona.

Family life was not working out for George and Belva. She confronted him with the fact that he was unfaithful, she asked him to leave not knowing how she would raise two small children. "He asked my forgiveness and said that things would be better." While living in Prescott, Belva had a telephone installed and a sign made that said, “Dressmaking and Alterations,” and opened up a business. With both girls out of the home, Belva and George found their lives heading in opposite directions, and had little in common. He worked out of the Yavapai County Supervisor’s office and Belva had many customers in her business. She joined the local Business and Professional Women’s Group. George did not want to go anywhere or visit anyone except his folks. Belva wanted to go places and enjoyed visiting with others.

George had a bad accident when he jumped on the back of a road grader, slipped and the wheels ran over his foot, breaking many bones in his food and bruising his thigh. His foot healed, but left him with a limp. He sued the county for back pay and overtime pay, and collected money for his injury, and banked this in his name only. He now went to work for the state Highway with their office in Prescott. George and Belva decided to go thier own ways after 31 years of marriage and on August 15, 1955 their divorce became final.

Belva moved to Pasadena and found a job at a young bridal shop doing fittings and alterations. After a time she found an empty shop on N. Mentor and signed a three year lease and put out a sign that said, “Brown & Jones,” for Belva Jones and her new friend Brownie, a 70-year-old woman who had worked in the bridal shop with Belva. When Belva started working she always saved a little bit of everything she made. Belva always had a nest egg here and there. When she sold the house in Prescott as well as her later homes she carried the loan on it and never spent money. Belva said, “I didn’t spend the money I saved and so from starting out from absolutely nothing, I am now able to retire and enjoy things. And the work I did I enjoyed doing and could still do it if I wanted to.”

After a cousin died she inherited a small parrot with green, red, yellow, and blue on his wings and yellow on the top of his head. The parrot's name was Carl Rudy. He had many words he could say, “amigo”, “hello”, and "goodbye” were his favorites.

While Belva was on a stake mission, she taught and married Clarence LeRoy Olsen who was a carpenter in 1958. In 1961 they were sealed in the Los Angeles Temple. Some elders in the Seventh-Day Adventists church called on him and his testimony was not strong enough so he left the church. He became abusive and they divorced in 1965. She later met Jim Steward at a dance and they were married in Flagstaff, Arizona by Judge Laurence Wren. Belva began to have doubts in her mind about things that did not fit together. She found out that “Jim Stewart” was an assumed name, and his wife had not died as he said. She went to court and was given an annulment."

"I now had my home in Altadena and a mobile home in Kingman all paid for; so I listed the Kingman property for sale with the real estate office and sold it for cash and made a profit on it. 1971 was a big turning point in my life, I had gone to the dance in the Women’s Clubhouse and this nice gentlemen asked me to dance and a very good dancer he proved to be. She was such a nice person and seemed to lonesome. He asked if he could come see me and take me out to dinner; I finally told him I could go the following evening."

"Edward Breiten lived in Pomona in a mobile home. His wife had died in the past year and he was very lonesome. He was a real gentleman and expressed his wish to know more about our church. I sent a referral letter to the missionaries and they called on him and gave him the lessons, and he was baptized on April 3, 1971. Edward invited me to his place for lunch and to meet his friends and neighbors in Crest Mobile Manor Park. They seemed so nice and concerned about Edward."

"We were married July 10, 1971 in Edwards’ mobile home, with family and friends present. And soon thereafter retired. Edward and I traveled to all 50 states together. Edward had diabetes and died on October 8, 1980. Ed was a good man, I kept him feeling better until he died; he was honest and so appreciative of the way I did things for him and our home. He always said I was a good wife. He loved my daughters and all their families. He had his will made so there were no problems in settling his estate. He had bought burial lots in Rose hills in the Nauvoo section and paid for all costs at the Todd’s mortuary. Edward and I had ten years of a very happy marriage. I can say it was the best time of my life. We attended our church together, when on trips together. We had a nice home, family and many friends.”

“I started a hobby at this time in my life I really enjoyed – needlepoint. Norma had taken a class in needlepoint in Phoenix and she started me on a cushion top. I made several tops and made them into cushions with velvet backs and cording. I bought a five-legged antique footstool and made a top in needlepoint and refinished the woodwork and did the upholstery myself and really liked what it did and this became a hobby with me. I enjoyed looking in antique stories for stools and found many unusual ones and they all made up so beautiful I always signed them with my name “Belva” and the year. I gave them as presents to my daughters, Marjorie and Norma, and to my children's, son-in-laws: Jim and Wayne. I also had a really special Relief Society sister, Renee Anderson, and I gave her a lovely one. All together I have made thirty some. I decided I had made enough when a friend in our mobile park, Joah Poorbaugh, gave me an old stool. She had decided it was too big of a job for her and gave it to me. Wayne Dawson has always been so good to glue and make the stools that were shaky stand up nice and strong. It was always interesting to see how these old stools had been stuffed or filled, some with horsehair, and excelsior. The wooden frames could be cleaned with old English scratch remover and fine steel wool and then rubbed good with a soft cloth.”

Belva spent many years traveling around the world, helping people in her mobile home park and making footstools and wedding dresses for her grandchildren. She is remembered with great fondness.

 Belva's footstools

Belva died on November 2, 1997 in Maricopa County




Belva Wilcox by Jennifer Jenkins 2020

Belva in the 1940 census:

Belva Wilcox 1904 - 1997 from K on Vimeo.

Belva and Edward.  When Edward died he left everything to Belva and left nothing to his daughter Linda R. Breiten.